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Brain Dynamics and Plasticity Across the Lifespan

Brain plasticity can be conceptualized as nature’s invention to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.  As such, plasticity is an intrinsic property of the brain – however, mechanisms of plasticity may vary and change with age and circumstance.  An important question we ask at the Berenson-Allen center is how does the brain change across varied situations and how is this change reflected in overall network dynamics?

Visual Neural Networks

Over the last three decades we have explored vision in a variety of ways. One way we explore this important and dynamic sense is via blindness. Several of our studies have examined the visual cortices of the congenitally blind whilst others have simulated blindness in healthy subjects to examine and track plastic changes. Current projects include:

  • Combining TMS with fMRI to see network activation during induced visual activation: Mark Halko
  • Utilizing TMS to examine visual determination of three-dimensional bi-stable objects: Marine Vernet

Default Network

The default network is a group of brain regions active when a person is in a state of wakeful rest. Thought to correspond to personal introspection, aberrant function of the default network has been implicated in a number of disorders, including autism, Alzheimer's, and schizophrenia. Several of our studies are exploring whether or not brain stimulation can be used to modulate this default network with potential therapeutic implications. Current projects include:

  • Combining TMS and fMRI to examine default network function and modulation: Mark Eldaief

Measures of Plasticity

Various TMS protocols can mimic and track plastic events within the brain. For instance, a relatively new TMS pattern called Theta-Burst Stimulation can transiently change neural firing patterns in ways which can be externally measured, either via electrophysiological or electromyographical recording. Differential response to Theta-Burst, either across age-groups or disease states, may reveal abnormal neural plasticity and aid in our understanding of the evolving brain. Current projects include:

  • Combining TMS and EEG to examine plasticity in healthy and autistic subjects: Lindsay Oberman
  • Combining TMS and EMG to examine plasticity in the healthy elderly and AD subjects: Natasha Atkinson
  • Exploring plastic change in the brain following lesion: Mark Halko

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Contact Information

Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Kirstein Building 158
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: 617-667-0307
Fax: 617-975-5322